Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra
April 10th, 2016 by smow

Born in Leverkusen Glen Oliver Löw initially studied Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal before moving to Milan in 1986 where he completed a Masters degree at the Domus Academy. Following his graduation from the Domus Academy Glen Oliver Löw remained in Milan where he took up a position with Antonio Citterio, becoming a partner in the practice in 1990, and developing a wide range of projects for companies as varied as, amongst others, Vitra, Kartell and Flos.

In 2000 Glen Oliver Löw returned to Germany where he took up a professorial position at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, HFBK, in Hamburg and established a design studio in the city from where he has realised projects with clients such as Thonet, Steelcase and Knoll.

We met up with Glen Oliver Löw to discuss contemporary product design, 1980s Milan and the HFBK Hamburg, but began, as ever, by asking why design?

Glen Oliver Löw: As a child I had a strong affinity with design, was always building and creating, and so when it came time to decide on a direction industrial design was an obvious choice. What I especially enjoy is working as part of a team to develop meaningful, functioning products.

smow Blog: And why Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: It was a Hochschule which had a very good reputation, particularly in terms of practical skills, which at that time was what design was, creating objects for industrial production and at Wuppertal one received a very good basis in areas such as materials or production processes.

smow Blog: After Wuppertal you switched to the Domus Academy in Milan, which sound likes a dictionary definition of “culture shock”, why the decision for Milan?

Glen Oliver Löw: For me it was necessary, and important, after a fairly dry, technical, German education to see and to understand design in a cultural context, and I was lucky enough to get an Europa-Stipendium which enabled me to attend Domus. That was 1986 which was a very exciting, motivating time, Memphis, for example, were very present with their functionalism criticism and their anti position in terms classic product design. I was clearly on the side of the functionalists, and despite the influences I remained a functionalist, always form follows function, but it was a wonderful, exciting, environment to be in.

smow Blog: Interesting you say that because you were a student in Wuppertal as the neue Deutsche Design Welle was breaking across West Germany, did that leave you cold, did what was happening not interest you, or…..?

Glen Oliver Löw: I couldn’t stand all that, I found it gruesome – it never appealed to me. The Memphis aesthetic was however something which I found more interesting

smow Blog: You said that Milan in the mid 1980s was an exciting environment to be in, how is it when you visit Milan today, do you still feel a sense of energy, or has city and its design community changed, evolved with the years?

Glen Oliver Löw: Personally I don’t find it so exciting, that could however be to do with me! However in general I don’t find the contemporary industrial design discourse especially interesting. Back then completely new things were being created, new ideas advanced, there was genuine innovation, these days its more show, to make things different but not necessarily better. And specifically in terms of Milan in the 1980s it was an El Dorado for designers, there were a relatively large number of small and medium sized furniture producers and they all needed something innovative and creative in order to be competitive, and so there was a lot of possibilities for designers. Today I see a lot less innovation and creativity, and for all fewer companies prepared to take a risk and let a designer try something experimental, all prefer to play safe, to focus on that which has already proved itself, or more commonly what competitors have in their programme, rather than risking an investment in something new, and the consequence is that it is always the same designers who are commissioned to produce the same ideas over and over again.

smow Blog: Can you explain why that should be, is it because of a changed understanding of design, has the design market altered….?

Glen Oliver Löw: I have always been of the opinion that design begins with a problem. Today however a lot of design is self-involved – design for design’s sake. In many respects design has become similar to fashion, with the repetition of shortsighted trends. And on the other hand the affinity to objects is not there as it once was, the interest in an object. Everything today happens in media, and how things look is of secondary importance, the object as a physical entity is not so important today, functionality is much more understood in terms of usability. Man-Machine interaction.

smow Blog: And can we therefore assume that you also have the feeling the term design is becoming more vague, less defined?

Glen Oliver Löw: Absolutely, total ambiguous. Today everything is packaged under the term design, if, for example, someone works in a social context then one designs society or social processes. Today everything is design.

smow Blog: Having gone to Milan to study for a year, you remained for neigh on 15 years, principally cooperating with Antonio Citterio, how did that partnership arise?

Glen Oliver Löw: At that time he was looking for a German speaking designer to be responsible for the contact with Vitra. He asked at Domus, they suggested me and as Antonio Citterio was one of the few designers in Milan in those days who’d remained true to functionalism and hadn’t been seduced by Memphis, everything fitted perfectly. For me personally it meant that I started travelling to Basel, to Vitra, once a week and that was then when I truly began to understand how a design process functions and what it means to design in an industrial context.

smow Blog: And how was the design process with Antonio Citterio, was it the case that you developed a project and he said good or not good or was it a more joint approach?

Glen Oliver Löw: From the very beginning we worked very closely together, and then after I became a partner I was much more independent in what I did, but always in close cooperation with Citterio. I think we always had similar approaches and a similar understanding, I would say that I was probably always more interested in innovation and invention, so doing something new or different, whereas Citterio has a very good hand to take things that are already there and to reconfigure in a new and meaningful fashion.

smow Blog: In 2000 you left Milan, was that just a case of new millennium, new perspectives, or….

Glen Oliver Löw: After 13 years cooperation with Citterio the time was right to establish my own office, and the position here at the Hochschule offered the perfect opportunity. There were also personal, family, considerations, but at that time everything just seemed to indicate that a return to Germany was the correct decision, and so I took up the position here and established my own studio.

smow Blog: When we look at the HFBK the Design Department is, let’s say, very experimental, and then there is Professor Glen Oliver Löw as the representative of a more traditional form of design…

Glen Oliver Löw: I’m the dinosaur here, a remnant as it were of Industrial design. In the fifteen years that I’ve been here the design department has changed a lot. When I first came it was much more focussed on the forming of objects, so classic product design, it was understood that design was products, these days I have to fight my position a little harder. The new direction is much more social design, and objects are much more a peripheral aspect.

smow Blog: And what does that mean for the practicalities of the education here, can one for example still design a chair here as graduation project?

Glen Oliver Löw: The HFBK is an art school and all students study for a Bachelor in Fine Arts, within the course there is a focus Design and in terms of the practicalities it isn’t the case that the teaching staff stand at the front of the class and explain how things are, rather each student should find their own way. The aim is that every student develops their own theme, their own attitude and finds a subject in which they work and develop over the three years, and that could yes be product related, for example a chair. One of the great advantages of the HFBK is the fantastic workshops and workshop staff, facilities which mean that all our students have the opportunity develop a design into a functional object; but that is an opportunity that is not taken up as often as it once was, or at least not so often at a high level. When I first arrived here students were building, for example, functional solar aircraft in the workshops, today there is much more dilettantism: Gaffer tape is considered sexy and is regularly used in place of a refined technical detail.

smow Blog: Which we take to mean that not only has the design department changed over the years, but also the design student……?

Glen Oliver Löw: Their interests are certainly different, and they are also much younger, these days they often come straight from school, which is often too early. One regularly has the feeling a student doesn’t really know themselves what they want here, other than this all encompassing “design”, that they need a bit more experience, that they should first of all complete an apprenticeship to get a better understanding of things, because a four year course isn’t that much time to discover what you want.

smow Blog: When we speak to recent graduates they often articulate a wish that there had been more business elements in die education, how is the situation here, are such things taught?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, no, and that deliberately so! We are art school and as designers we are not interested in aligning design with economic aspects! Here, for example, Open Design is a big theme, everyone places their designs online and others can change them, adapt them, and that is obviously a completely different mentality to my generation where we all thought we’d invented something, sought to protect it and to earn money through licence fees.
Occasionally students do come to ask questions and I happily give tips and advice from my own experience on, for example, what is important with a contract or where one should take care when speaking with a client, and in such ways business elements do become part of the student’s education here. In principle I recommend all students undertake an internship or work in a design office in order to learn those elements of the profession which aren’t covered in the college in a professional context.
smow Blog: But were you taught such things at Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, we weren’t taught such things either, if I remember I think we had a course in copyright, but otherwise it was all learning by doing.

smow Blog: And does the situation arise that students come and say, I’ve got a chair design, would like to find a producer….. can you help me?

Glen Oliver Löw: That does occur, yes, and several projects developed here at the college are now in serial production. However often students over-estimate the potential of an academic, student, project. The primary aim of the education is not specific object but rather the gestaltende Individuum, the personal development.
I am in any case firmly of the opinion that one should always develop a project together with a producer. Personally I have never designed something and then looked to place it with a manufacturer, that rarely functions. However as a student or young designer you often have little other choice to try to draw attention to yourself and to attract the attention of a manufacturer.

smow Blog: In addition to your teaching work here you are also still developing furniture projects, is that something you still enjoy?

Glen Oliver Löw: Very much so, it is something which gives a great deal of satisfaction and which shows that classic product design is not dead, and that there is still an interest in a good functional product which functions globally and across cultural borders, and that despite everything functional design is still in demand.

smow Blog: Changing tact slightly, you’ve been in Hamburg for 15 years now, is Hamburg a creative city? Are there options for students here after graduation?

Glen Oliver Löw: Creative yes, but not one with much in terms of production or companies who can realise designs. As a city Hamburg is much more geared towards, for example, media or trading. However in our contemporary global economy designers don’t necessarily need to be based near to manufacturers.

smow Blog: And to end, is there one piece of advice you would give your students?

Glen Oliver Löw: To be successful as a designer requires a great passion for objects, the design process and an unconditional creative will. Design students who have to force themselves to create something, I would advise to consider a different path.

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Posted in Designer, Interview, Kartell, Knoll, Office Furniture, Producer, Thonet, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , ,

August 6th 1920 Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri
August 6th, 2014 by smow

“Plastic was equivalent with America for us. Only Bakelite came from Europe. Right? But after the war, everything plastic came to Italy from the States. Purely commercial stuff, but every year a new material came on the market”, recalled Italian architect and designer Anna Castelli Ferrieri in a 1997 interview, “We wanted to try out what all can be made with these new materials”1

And try she did. With an élan that resulted in an enviable portfolio of products that have not only become established design classics in their own right but which helped establish Italian manufacturer Kartell’s reputation at the forefront of plastic research and design.

Born in Milan on August 6th 1920 Anna Ferrieri studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano before establishing her own architecture practice in 1946. In the early 1960s, in context of a hotel renovation project undertaken with Ignazio Gardella, Anna Castelli Ferrieri found herself, more or less, forced to design a table – unable as she was to find anything on the market which matched her specifications. As fate would have it, her husband Giulio Castelli had in 1949 established a small plastics company called Kartell. Following an initial specialisation on industrial and scientific objects and components, Kartell moved throughout the 1950s ever more towards domestic, household objects before in 1964 releasing their first piece of furniture – Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso’s K1340 stackable children’s chair. Against her better judgement Anna Castelli Ferrieri decided to mix private and professional and co-operated with Kartell on the hotel furniture project, the result was Ignazio Gardella and Anna Castelli Ferrieri’s much celebrated large oval dinning table: and the start of a long, if unintended, professional relationship between Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Giulio Castelli. In 1966 Anna Castelli Ferrieri planned and built a new production and administrative complex for Kartell in the southern suburbs of Milan before moving on to develop numerous successful furniture design projects for the company, the best known and most important being without question being the Componibili modular storage system from 1969.

For Anna Castelli Ferrieri the advantages of the new synthetic materials were clear, “With plastics new production process became available. With the old processes one often required several components made of different materials. That meant waste. With plastic everything could be made in one process, from one material, in one piece. And the results weren’t just cheaper, but also more attractive.”2 This passion for plastic never waned and throughout her career she remained an uncritical fan of plastics, even suggesting, somewhat controversially, that “plastic is the only ecological material that exists today. You should leave the wood in the forests. We should not work with anything that can come to an end, can run out.”3 That said, Anna Castelli Ferrieri was also very aware of a designer’s responsibility, stating in 1997 that, “I continue on my own way, conscious of the responsibility I take upon myself whenever I add a new presence to an already overcrowded physical world.”4 For Anna Castelli Ferrieri that included developing new processes for recycling plastic waste and indeed new forms of more durable, less resource intensive plastics. Research that remains a central focus of Kartell’s commercial activity.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri’s design career was however much more than just Kartell and plastics. In addition to co-founding the Italian Industrial Design Association and teaching at both Milan University and the Domus Academy, Anna Castelli Ferrieri co-operated with companies as varied as Arflex, Matteo Grassi or Barovier & Toso and spent five years as the Italian correspondent of the London based publication Architectural Design.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri died in Milan on June 22nd 2006 aged 87.

But for today, Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri!

1.  Hufnagl, Florian (ed.) Plastics + design die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, München , Arnoldsche Verlag, Stuttgart 1997

2. Quoted in, Jürgs, Britta “Vom Salzstreuer bis zum Automobil: Designerinnen”, AvivA Verlag, Berlin, 2002

3.  Hufnagl, Florian (ed.) Plastics + design die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, München , Arnoldsche Verlag, Stuttgart 1997

4. Quoted in “Anna Castelli Ferrieri, 87, Force in Postwar Modern Italian Design, Dies” New York Times, June 28, 2006{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A14%22} accessed 05.08.2014

August 6th 1920 Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri

Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri!

Posted in Design Calendar, Designer, Kartell, Producer, Product Tagged with: , ,

Bourgie by Ferruccio Laviani Kartell
January 29th, 2014 by smow

It’s probably indicative of the transiency of the contemporary furniture business, but during the recent Maison & Objet in Paris, Milanese manufacturer Kartell celebrated 10 years of the lamp Bourgie by Ferruccio Laviani.

Time was when 10 years was but the blink of an eye for a lighting design object; these days, objects that survive a decade are the grand old men of the company’s portfolio.

To celebrate ten years of Bourgie Kartell asked 14 designers to re-imagine Ferruccio Laviani’s faux-baroque lamp. Or 13 designers and Lenny Kravitz.

Philippe Starck chose to garnish/mock the base with kitsch plastic jewellery, Eugeni Quitllet turned the one light bulb into ten birthday cake candles, Alberto Meda removed the baroque excesses to produce a delightfully reduced metal version, Patricia Urquiola completely revised Bourgie and created a hanging chandelier, and perhaps most impressively Mario Bellini created the most fantastic lamp-cum-coat stand-cum-umbrella holder.

In the coming months the anniversary lamps will go on a small global tour before being auctioned at the end of 2014. The proceeds from the sale going to charity.

A few impressions:

Posted in Designer, Kartell, Producer, Product, smow blog compact Tagged with: , ,

philippe starck portrait Jean-Baptiste Mondino
January 18th, 2014 by smow

A few years ago the (smow) blog telephone rang…..

“Good morning is it possible to speak to Philippe Starck please?” enquired the caller.

“I’m sorry he’s not here at the moment” we replied, truthfully, if not altogether helpfully.

“When will it be possible?” came the inevitable follow-up.

“We’re not really sure, he’s not here in Leipzig that often”, we responded, truthfully if, again, not altogether helpfully, “you’re probably better phoning the Paris office they tend to be better informed”

It wasn’t our proudest moment. But one of the more satisfying.

A few months later we failed to secure an interview with Philippe Starck at Milan Design Week.

We can’t prove the two are related, but, you know, karma.

philippe starck portrait  Jean-Baptiste Mondino

Philippe Starck (Photo: Jean-Baptiste Mondino)

Born on January 18th 1949 in the Parisian suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine to an inventor/aircraft engineer father and a housewife mother, Philippe Starck grew up in first Neuilly and laterally Garches Marne-la-Coquette and more or less attended the private École Camondo design school. Following a tenure with Studio Pierre Cardin in Paris, Philippe Starck initially made a name for himself in the late 1970s as a nightclub designer before in 1983, as part of a programme of cultural promotion, he was commissioned to design private rooms in the Élysée Palace for the French President Francois Mitterand and his wife Danielle. The Élysée commission, together with his 1984 design for Cafe Costes – an establishment of which the German newspaper Die Zeit wrote “No café in Paris is currently more “en vogue” ….  and none has so much chic and flair”1 – helped catapult Philippe Starck into the rapidly expanding world of interior design. And from there into the even more rapidly expanding universe of furniture design.

Characterised by an almost unbearable Post Modern meets Art Deco garishness, a character trait his furniture retains to this day, Philippe Starck’s early furniture designs caught the mood of the time, and more importantly, the attention of manufactures. From his first commissions for the Italian manufacturers Driade and Baleri Philippe Starck has gone on to collaborate with the likes of Vitra, Cassina, Alias and perhaps most famously Kartell where products such as La Marie, Louis Ghost or the Bubble Club sofa have established themselves as genuine modern furniture design classics.

Philippe Starck is however more than furniture. A prodigious creator, Philippe Starck’s canon is as diverse as it is incessant: buildings, hotel interiors, water fountains, lamps, motorcycles, televisions, telephones, toothbrushes, glasses, wind turbines, clothing, bottles…. and of course the most famous lemon juicer of all time. This variety, and the inevitable contradictions and conflicts that arise on account of the range of projects undertaken, make Philippe Starck a very hard designer to pin down. Or perhaps better put, makes him easy to misunderstand. Something not helped by the fact that most Philippe Starck books tend to be heavily image based, and what texts they have tend to be repetition of the same anecdotes.

There is no easy way to discover the real Philippe Starck. Especially if like us you toy foolhardishly with karma’s fickle temperament.

And so we thought to mark Philippe Starck’s birthday we’d let the man himself explain himself in a baker’s dozen of quotes that we hope present a balanced and fair picture of designer once memorably described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “…. the most fashionable furniture, nightclub, yacht and pasta designer in France”2

Praise indeed.

Happy Birthday Philippe Starck!

The word design does not exist. It is the English word for dessin, which is devoid of all meaning. There are those who think that it is about making things more beautiful in order to sell them. The great designer Raymond Loewy, for example. There is some truth in that. Others such as myself, believe that it is a bit more complicated: that it is a semiological task which makes use of a didactic tool in order to try to improve people’s lives and, as a result, the quality of their thoughts. That is extremely pretentious, but if it were otherwise there would be no point in doing it.
The World/Peace according to Starck Extract of a converstaion in April 1996 with Pierre Doze, Moscow. Reprinted in Starck Benedikt Taschen verlag, Köln 1996.

I remember, in my younger days, saving up to buy my first Wassily Chair. When I was finally able to buy it I took it home, bursting with pride: there it was, real proof that I had finally made it as a designer. But I found that I just could not sit in it and that it was completely impossible to live with. I still have it, but I think it is in the garden now. The trouble was that it spoke simply the language of design, whereas I believe that as designers we have a duty to talk other people’s languages too.
The International Design Yearbook Volume 3, Abbeville Press, New York, NY 1987

I am inspired by nothing except myself and my own madness. No-one has ever inspired me, neither God nor master, nor man nor woman nor animal nor culture nor film nor anything at all.
Alison Culliford, “Style Profile: Philippe Starck”, Eurostar Metropolitan Magazine June 2013 Accessed 17.01.2014

I’m not a designer, I’m not an architect, I’m not a specialist… I’m not specialised in anything, which means I’m specialised in everything. I’ve designed hotels, toothbrushes, lamps, chairs, tables, every kind of object. But the product in itself doesn’t mean anything. As far as I am concerned it’s just an excuse to get involved in something else, in what life could be, for example…. To sum it all up, I consider myself to be a political agitator who uses design and architecture…. This is my real occupation
Interview by M di Forti with Philippe Strack in Il Messaggero 4/6/1993 in Franco Bertoni, The Architecture of Philippe Starck, Academy Editions 1994

This obviously means getting rid of recycling, which is just a marketing gimmick…. Recycling was invented by the ecologists, but in the end, all it does is enable us to go on producing and consuming wastefully. A good product is a product which lasts…. I am not against recycling, I am against its being used as a universal panacea. Recycling is a sticking plaster, a way of repairing a mistake, nothing more.
Extract of a conversation with Elisabeth Laville (in August 1998) originally published in a special issue of La Lettre d’Utopies/”Responsible Design” reprinted in Reprinted in Starck Benedikt Taschen verlag, Köln 2000

For myself I have to make it clear that my cultural background is not really French. It is the product of a childhood colonized by dreams of America. Even my father came under these same influences: he spent his life designing aircraft, and was Americanized enough to wear a Stetson. And it is perhaps that American influence that has shaped my work, to the extent that I proceed instinctively and, above all, fast.
The International Design Yearbook Volume 3, Abbeville Press, New York, NY 1987

In other words, to put it simply, I am not interested in design. The reason for this is that when we speak of design we speak about objects. I am bored to hell of chairs. Even my own. One more chair, another lamp, what is the interest in that?…We have moved from traditional design – Bauhaus, Lowey, people fascinated by the object itself, which gave rise to some very beautiful results – to the explosion, like the glow of a light bulb before it burns out, in the last 15 years of a narcissistic design, done by designers for other designers, a masturbatory exhibition of their know-how, of their panache.
The World/Peace according to Starck Extract of a converstaion in April 1996 with Pierre Doze, Moscow. Reprinted in Starck Benedikt Taschen verlag, Köln 1996.

Creativity is for me no end in itself. For that I lack the fantasy, and anyway it doesn’t interest me. I’m much more interested with the everyday, with things that concern us all; underwear, washing, rain protection and I endow these things a fifth dimension, a depth that allows normal everyday objects to be more than themselves. I try to bring a little shine to the daily routine, to show that our urban reality can also be sinful and interesting.
Conway Lloyd Morgan Philippe Starck bangert verlag Schopfhein 1999

My father had matured the idea that research in all fields is almost a duty in life, a kind of obligation. We must invent, it is our place, our mission. Culture, the notion of taste, was subordinate to this research. Just as well to make a creative mistake rather than be holed up in a state of stagnation in good taste. That has partly influenced me; its part of my heritage, always wanting to create, be creative….
Christine Colin Starck Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, Tübingen 1989

My work is about the transformation of “obligations” into something else; it’s an addition of soul. What I’m saying is that when I’m forced to consume, to expiate this consumption, I inject it with soul, until the object becomes something else, or becomes a small poetic part. This is typified in my work on the toothbrush. True, we are obliged to brush our teeth, and we are therefore forced to keep a toothbrush in our bathroom – can’t dispute that – but, with a bit of effort we notice that suddenly…. voila! it becomes something else; a flame, a ray of light, an object….
The Architecture of Philippe Starck, Academy Editions 1994

In the 1950s, one of the fathers of design, Raymond Loewy, invented a slogan which was responsible both for his own success and, in part, for that of the design movement: “ugliness doesn’t sell well.” At that time, he may have been right, but I’m afraid that this formula was already structurally flawed. We have to escape from this flaw, we have to kill the word of the father…. We have to understand that “ugliness doesn’t sell well” means that design is simply the slave of industry and production, that its role is to help things sell. Structurally, that is no longer what we do. Today, the problem is not to produce more so you can sell more. The fundamental question is that of the product’s right to exist. And it is the designer’s right and duty, in the first place, to question the legitimacy of the product, and that is how he too comes to exist.
Extract of a conversation with Elisabeth Laville (in August 1998) originally published in a special issue ofLa Lettre d’Utopies/”Responsible Design” reprinted in Reprinted in Starck Benedikt Taschen verlag, Köln 2000

The first thing for us to remember is that creativity has a duty of political action. And now we have forgotten that, and young designers just think about being a star and making money. They forget their duty to society. Everything you do must be in relation to your civilization, your society, yourself, your life: without that the objects you make are just objects. That’s why I try to wake people up a little and say everything you do is a political vote.
Julie Taraska “Philippe Starck’s Politique” Accessed 17.01.2014

I have no taste…. but really, I have no taste at all
“The fabulous styles of the man with no taste” Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday Oct 16th 1986 Style Section, page 1

1 “Bonbon aus Paris. Cafe der achtziger Jahre.” Die Zeit 13th September 1985. Accessed 17.01.2014

2 “The fabulous styles of the man with no taste” Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday Oct 16th 1986. Style Section, page 1

Kartell Victoria Ghost Autumn

Enjoying autumn with a Victoria Ghost by Philippe Starck for Kartell

Posted in Alias, Cassina, Design Calendar, Designer, Kartell, Producer, Product, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , ,

A&W Designer of the Year 2012 Patricia Urquiola Volant Moroso
January 25th, 2012 by smow
A&W Designer of the Year 2012 Patricia Urquiola

A&W Designer of the Year 2012: Patricia Urquiola

For a decade and a half the unofficial start to Cologne Furniture Week has been the honouring of the “A&W Designer of the Year”

Awarded by the German magazine “A&W Architektur & Wohnen”, the prize was inaugurated in 1997 to honour a designer whose work has particular defined the home furnishing style of our time. Previous winners including Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio or Tom Dixon. To name just three from 15.

The A&W Designer of the Year 2012 is the Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola.

Perhaps best known for her work with Moroso, B&B Italia, Kartell or Molteni, Patricia Urquiola initially studied architecture in Madrid before moving to Italy where she completed her studies at the Politecnico di Milano. In 2001 she established her own studio in Milan and in addition to furniture design work has also completed numerous interior design projects and since 2002 has been a Guest Professor at the Domus Academy.

Ahead of the awards ceremony we spoke with Patricia Urquiola about her career and specifically, and in keeping with both the award and the exhibition “From Aalto to Zumthor Furniture by Architects” in the MAKK, discussed if architects make better furniture designers.

(smow)blog: You studied architecture, now work principally as a designer. Was it your intention to follow a career as an architect, or was that just a way to means?

Patricia Urquiola: From my early teens my intention was to become an architect; I was one of these adolescents who is already certain what they want to do. And so I studied architecture at the Politecnica Madrid and there I met Marco Zanuso, Achille Castiglioni and many other very interesting architects who were working in both architecture and design. And that made me focus more on design. And so in a way the Italians led this change of focus.

(smow)blog: And then you moved to Milan where you later you went on to work with another architect and designer, Piero Lissoni

Patricia Urquiola: Yes, but with the background I have and amongst my contemporaries it was quite natural to work across the borders of architecture and design. Which of course is part of the reason Milan became important as a centre for architecture and design.

(smow)blog: At the moment there is an exhibition here in Cologne looking at the role of “furniture architects”. Do architects make better furniture than designers with a different background?

Patricia Urquiola: No, I don’t think so. I am, for example, a big fan of Konstantin Grcic and he is not an architect. The discipline of design can be approached in many ways, and for me the border between the two is on the one side the “habitat” and the other “tools for living”. That was my education, that’s me and that is my approach. But the disciplines leave a lot of space to approach it in many ways and we’ve got to be open to listen to new voices. And I think there is currently some very good research and some very good schools, I think, for example, Eindhoven is currently very interesting. But, as I say, there are a lot of possibilities for working in these disciplines and we have to remain open to read the situation.

(smow)blog: You’ve been living in Milan for some 25 years now. Have you noticed a change over the decades? Is it still a city where one feels creativity?

Patricia Urquiola: I moved to Milan in a very creative period. The likes of Castiglioni or Vico Magistretti were still active and the Memphis group were in their best period. But then obviously Milan changed a lot, became more bourgeois, and today we have all these crises. But like all design centres in Italy in Milan there is still a desire to produce quality work. I had the luck in Milan to meet people who believed in design and who gave people like me a certain credibility, and I’m very grateful for that. But then my life is not only about Milan, and the work that I do in Milan is only part of my work.

A&W Designer of the Year 2012 Patricia Urquiola Volant Moroso

The sofa Volant for Moroso by Patricia Urquiola

A&W Designer of the Year 2012 Patricia Urquiola Silver Lake Moroso Comeback Chair Kartell

Silver Lake by Moroso and in the background Comeback Chair for Kartell by Patricia Urquiola

A&W Designer of the Year 2012 Patricia Urquiola KETTAL MAIA Egg swing chasen flos Tropicalia Moroso

Maia Egg swing for Kettal, the lamp Chasen for flos and Tropicalia for Moroso, all by Patricia Urquiola


Posted in Awards, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Interview, Producer Tagged with: ,

smow Designer Furniture Catalogue 2011
July 5th, 2011 by smow


Not a phrase normally associated with (smow)

To the best of our knowledge no (smow)employee has ever smashed an iPad or capped a WiFi service in protest at the creeping and increasingly obsessive proliferation of technology into our lives.

Despite that, the early summer weeks in the (smow)HQ were dominated by the preparation and production of the very first (smow)catalogue.

That’s print catalogue.

So on paper.

With ink.


Au contraire nos amis!

Not only is the production of such an analogue catalogue technologically more challenging than coding with that “any-fool-can-do” HTML; but, just as the mechanisation of the textile mills offered the oppressed masses their first, golden, taste of leisure time – so does a print catalogue help us to regain that.

Turn off the computer, enjoy a break, peruse a catalogue. And then turn the computer back on and order.

In addition to featuring a selection of products from the (smow) range the (smow) Designer Furniture Catalogue 2011 also includes biographical information on some of the most important designers and a range of specially commissioned photos of products from USM Haller, Vitra, Moormann, Richard Lampert et al

And is a mighty fine piece of work. Well done to all involved!

If you’d be interested in seeing the finished work, or know someone who would appreciate a copy, please contact (NOTE: It is only available in German)

And at we have posted a photo gallery documenting the production process.

smow Designer Furniture Catalogue 2011

(smow) Designer Furniture Catalogue 2011

Posted in Artemide, Cassina, Fritz Hansen, Kartell, Knoll, Magis, Moormann, Producer, Richard Lampert, smow, USM Haller, Vitra, Wilde + Spieth Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kartell Stockholm present Front Page by Front
February 11th, 2011 by smow
Front Page by Front for Kartell

Front Page by Front for Kartell

As part of Stockholm Design Week 2011 Kartell presented the magazine rack Front Page by Stockholm design studio Front.

Clever word play and all…..

Although formally launched at Milan 2010 Front Page is only now making it’s way into the shops and as such presented a wonderful excuse for a Front “home gig”.

Having already worked with producers such as Moroso, Established & Sons or moooi, Front Page is Front’s first product for and with Kartell.

At the product launch in the Stockholm Kartell Flagship store we caught up with Anna Lindgren from Front to discuss the cooperation with Kartell and Stockholm.

(smow)blog: How did the cooperation with Kartell arise?

Anna Lindgren: Kartell was one of the companies we really wanted to work with – and so we tried for a long time to get a meeting with them in order to show them our portfolio. And then they saw some of our work as part of an exhibition in a gallery in Milan. And so in the end they contacted us.

(smow)blog: And then did they say – “Please make a magazine rack, we like the pun” or how did things develop?

Anna Lindgren: No, no it was much more that we were allowed to come to them and were given the chance to present different ideas that we thought would suit Kartell. And then it came to a discussion from which Front Page evolved. But Kartell also like to develop long term relationships with designers and so they also wanted to see that we could work on a range of different products that could work for Kartell….

(smow)blog: … and so there is a series of Front prototypes lying in the Kartell HQ basement …

Anna Lindgren: (laughs) No not exactly, but we are working on new projects that we hope could be ready for Milan this year. But it is not certain…

(smow)blog: And so from Front’s perspective the cooperation was successful?

Anna Lindgren: Definitely !

(smow)blog: We are currently in the middle of Stockholm Design Week, is that something Front have to be part of or is it something that you do because you want to?

Anna Lindgren: Some years we haven’t done anything! And this year it was the case that we had shown the magazine rack at Milan and then it was great that it was finally coming into the stores and so it’s nice to celebrate that. But we think Stockholm furniture fair is a very interesting fair and the design week is getting better all the time and so it is very interesting to do something here. Especially because it’s more convenient for us!

(smow)blog: And a final question. Is Stockholm a creative city where as a designer you can work, or do you have to leave Stockholm to achieve things?

Anna Lindgren: Stockholm is a very nice city to live in and work in. It’s big but not too big and there are a lot of creative people here in the city. And so for us Stockholm is a very good base for our studio.

Front Page  - the magazine rack that thinks its a book!

Front Page - The Kartell magazine rack that thinks it's a pun

Kartell Stockholm present Front Page by Front

Kartell Stockholm present Front Page by Front

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Interview, Kartell, Producer, Stockholm Design Week, Stockholm Furniture Fair Tagged with: , , , ,

Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell
August 5th, 2010 by smow
Anna Castelli Ferrieri (

Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1920-2006)

August 6th marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of the Italian architect, designer and Kartell co-founder Anna Castelli Ferrieri.

Despite initial flirtations with modernism, including a trip to Paris to visit Le Corbusier, the young Anna Castelli Ferrieri was drawn ever more to the Italian neo-rationalism  – especially that practiced by Franco Albini.

And although Kartell products may not be physically reminiscent of the work of Albini, the ethos behind the company and its approach to design are clearly rooted in Albini’s mix of traditional Italian design combined with modern approaches and affordable materials.

In addition to helping establish the golden era contemporary Italian design in the 1960s and 1970s as characterized by the likes of Joe Colombo or Ettore Sottsass,  Anna Castelli Ferrieri also contributed to the Italian design canon with her 1969 Componibili modular storage system; a system that remains a classic of contemporary Italian design.

From 1976 until her retirement in 1987 Anna Castelli Ferrieri served as artistic director by Kartell and oversaw the establishment of Kartell at the forefront of the development and utilization of modern plastics in product design.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri died on June 22nd 2006 aged 87.

Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell

Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell

Posted in Designer, Kartell, Producer, Product Tagged with: , , ,

Saffiano Fori Caramel from Prada
July 20th, 2010 by smow
Finally a good use for designer jeans.....

Finally a good use for designer jeans.....

The other week we briefly swapped our designer chairs for designer jeans, our crazy student sideboards for crazy student hats and and our designer bookcases for designer handbags: It was Berlin Fashion Week.

The short busman’s holiday in the German capital was principally concerned with a new, and still relatively secret, project but we also wanted to take the opportunity to compare and contrast the designer furniture and designer clothes industries.

Sure they are both about brands, star designers and market share.

But what we miss in the designer clothing industry is the innovation.

WHAT scream an offended ostentation of materials engineers in our direction.
Sorry. You MISS the INNOVATION!!!!

OK, badly explained.

Sponn chair by Antonio Citterio and Toan Nguyenfor Kartell. As seen during Berlin Fashion Week

Spoon chair by Antonio Citterio and Toan Nguyen for Kartell. As seen during Berlin Fashion Week

Aside from new materials, we miss the innovation.

A pair of jeans are a pair jeans regardless of where the pockets are.

Which makes the launch of most “new ” jeans simply presentation over substance.

“These jeans are good because they were designed by her that used to be in that band that were formed in that reality show!!!”

“These jeans are better than those jeans because these are straighter cut. And stop at the ankle”

If you think we over-exaggerate just ask yourself why the editors of fashion magazines are celebrities in their own right and the editors of design magazines are well paid specialist journalists?

The devil may sit on a Vitra chair; but no one is going to make a film about it!

We’re not going to pretend that there aren’t designer furniture producers who also place presentation above substance – but the majority are principally concerned with improving and further developing existing furniture types. Building more value into the product

We just didn’t see anyone in Berlin trying to improve or further develop trousers.

Where we do feel more at home in the designer fashion world is amongst those sections and products where innovation has a little more room. Designer accessories rather than designer clothes. As it were.

Saffiano Fori Caramel from Prada

A Prada Handbag

Such as handbags.

A new Prada handbag, for example, doesn’t have to impress us with the newness of its material or the colour of its fabric – just with its form, functionality and, perhaps most importantly, that it is somehow a further development from previous Prada handbags.

Much like a new Kartell chair.

It’s going to be plastic. But why should we buy it?

They’re trousers. Nice colour.

And just don’t get us started on “trend analysts”

And so we returned from the stifling bustle of Berlin more convinced than ever than in the world of clothes design the true creativity rests in ye goode olde wordsmithery and not in the tailoring.

And wondering if Kartell will ever produce designer handbags?

Posted in smow Tagged with: ,

Ghost Buster by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet for Kartell
April 11th, 2010 by smow

The undisputed highlight of the Kartell stand at Saloni Milano 2009 was the cat and mouse game with the special forces Kartell had hired to prevent visitors taking photographs.
Despite the Kartell stand taking up an area half the size of Lombardy, the highly trained troops proved particularly efficient and we, for example, were forced to camp out overnight in a disused fox hole just to get a quick snap shot of the Dr NOs.

Judging by the pre-Saloni press, this year is going to be even more fun.

They’re turning out the lights and employing the forces of the Dark Side to stop photographers!!

Welcome Black 2010 Philippe Starck and Kartell in Milan

"Welcome Black 2010" Philippe Starck and Kartell in Milan

“Welcome Black 2010” is the motto of Kartell’s Saloni show and the invitation promises a dark landscape full of sorcery and demonic goodness.
Or it does if you interpret it as we do.

Aside from fighting Jedis and terrifying young children, Kartell will launch new products by, among others, Tokujin Yoshioka, Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet, Piero Lissoni and Ferruccio Laviani.

We’ll be taking the night vision goggles and you can read our impressions of Kartell’s new products in our (smow) in Milan coverage from April 14th.

Invisible Chair by Ttokujin Yoshioka for Kartell

Invisible Chair by Ttokujin Yoshioka for Kartell

Ghost Buster by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet for Kartell

Ghost Buster by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet for Kartell

Posted in Designer, Producer, Product, smow in Milan Tagged with: , , , , ,

Safer Internet Day 2010
February 9th, 2010 by julius
Safer Internet Day 2010

Safer Internet Day 2010

9th February 2010, Brussels

Under the motto “Think before you Post” the from the EU funded  Safer Internet Day 2010 is focused primarily on how one deals with privacy in the internet, especially as concerns young people, photos, social networking sites and chatrooms.

Which is naturally a positive thing.

In essence one of the core reasons that people for all kids, run into problems on the internet is because they blindly believe everything they read.

Previously “the camera never lied”, we know now they can; and so we have transferred our faith in the internet.

But it does as well.

And not just children are naive in their relationship with the internet.
Many adult internet users are, psychologically, at an earlier development stage than most children when it comes to computers and modern technology.

Alone the regularity with which users are taken in by so-called “phising” emails illustrates how many adults simply do not understand the risks that can hide behind a little bit HTML or a clever flash graphic.

The webpage looks nice – it must be genuine.

Mart Stam copies awaiting collection... Bauhaus era products are amongst the most copied designer furniture classics

Mart Stam copies awaiting collection... Bauhaus era products are amongst the most copied designer furniture classics

One of the areas that has blossomed over the internet is the trade in illegal copies of designer furniture classics; for all Bauhaus classics and the works of Charles and Ray Eames.

And regardless how often warnings are given thousands of consumers waste their money – and all too often risk their health – by purchasing the cheap copies.

There are however a few pointers that can help you identify who is genuine and who is only looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

As a general rule the copies are described as being “inspired by” or “in the tradition of” the actual designer: That is assuming that the designers name or the producer is even named; for if the crooks don’t use names, it’s more difficult for the license holder to press charges.

Generic names provide safety for the criminals: but also a large clue for the consumers.

The second big clue is the price.

If the price is too cheap to be true – it’s probably an illegal copy.

There are reasons that some designer furniture pieces cost what they do – and they’re not all to do with greed.

In addition to the investment in the development process necessary to bring such a product on the market; designer furniture is made from durable, expensive, materials. Which is also your guarantee of a quality product that should outlive you and possibly even your children.

The cheap copy may not even see the week out.

The third test is the answers you receive from the customer service department. If the retailer is selling officially licensed products they can prove that and will have no problem providing full answers to questions. The crooks will duck and dive and assure you that all is OK…without being able to back it up.

(smow) only sells officially licensed products from producers such as Vitra, Kartell, Artemide, ClassiCon or Tecta.

Beware of illegal Eames Lounge Chair copies

Beware of illegal Eames Lounge Chair copies!!! (these are however legal artworks, made from Vitra originals....)

And have no problem answering questions and providing proof that the products are genuine.

An interesting side-project of Safer Internet Day is the cooperation with INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines.

INHOPE acts as a central registration point for reporting websites with illegal content.
Again principally geared towards protecting children in the internet, there is no reason why users cannot report websites offering illegal copies of designer furniture.

Or perhaps better, tell us.
Should you discover a website offering illegal copies of designer furniture classics let us know, and we’ll not only report them to the responsible authorities but also build a databank of such sites to help consumers shop safely.
And then hopefully we can all have an even happier Safer Internet Day 2011

Posted in smow Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Ero|s| by Philippe Starck from Kartell
January 25th, 2010 by julius

There is little doubt as to who the most popular furniture producers with the exhibitors here in Köln are…. Vitra and Kartell.

Two producers whom the Messe Köln sadly can’t attract to the show in their own right.
And that despite the fact that all the snack bars here in Köln Messe use Maarten van Severen‘s genial .03

On the stands here however we’ve seen, for example, Panton Chairs being used to augment otherwise tasteless bedroom suites and the classic Vitra DSR by Charles and Ray Eames standing at more than one table. Across the Rhein at designers open meanwhile, the somewhat less well earning young designers are more modestly kitted out, for example, with his Elephant Stool by Sori Yanagi.
Many of the more garish room set ups, meanwhile, use Kartell lighting as accessories.

The curious thing is – it works.

That however may just be due to the number of ironic bad taste hotel, spa and casino ensembles that Philippe Starck has organised of late. And not just lamps, Kartell seating pops ups up fairly frequently as well.  Sadly we’ve not seen as many from the Starck “Ghost” range as we like, however, we have seen some excellent ero|s| usage.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, the stands on which visitors fill out their registration forms are finest USM Haller.
But that USM Haller aren’t here is less of a surprise… they don’t do trade fairs.

And so despite our concerns over the aesthetics standards of some of the exhibitors here; it’s comforting to know that at least someone in the organisation can appreciate quality designer furniture.

03 by Maarten van Severen from Vitra

.03 by Maarten van Severen from Vitra

Vitra DSR by Charles and Ray Eames

Vitra DSR by Charles and Ray Eames

System USM Haller at IMM in Cologne

System USM Haller at IMM in Cologne

Ero|s| by Philippe Starck from Kartell

Ero|s| by Philippe Starck from Kartell

Posted in Designer, imm cologne, Producer, Product, smow, USM Haller, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Louis Ghost Chairs in Milan... seen the one behind the table'' Didn't think so,
August 13th, 2009 by julius

One of the classic rules of furniture design is the product must look good, must look appealing.

What, however, if you can’t see the product.

If it doesn’t have a visual presence.

That would make no sense.

Victoria Ghost by Philippe Starck for Kartell in New York

Victoria Ghost by Philippe Starck for Kartell in New York

Which is probably why it took Philippe Starck to come up with the “Ghost” range of chairs and stools for Kartell.

Very few other designers could create a range of chairs that regularly vanish in the light.

Starck’s motivation was of course somewhat different. With his Louis Ghost, Victoria Ghost and Charles Ghost for Kartell, Philippe Starck is playing with the “ghosts” of long since dead design styles. Awakening the past in a modern setting where it no longer plays a role yet is not forgotten.

Which is all well and good. That’s his job.

Louis Ghost Chairs in Milan... seen the one behind the table'' Didn't think so,

Louis Ghost Chairs in Milan... seen the one behind the table? Didn't think so

What he’s also achieved is a line of furniture that belong to most distinctive of the last 20 years.

Louis Ghost is a play on the period furniture from time of Louis XV’s regin, moving forward a century the Charles Ghost is reminiscent of the stools of 19th century Europe and with Victoria Ghost Starck completes his tour through three centuries of European furniture design.

The real magic of the series, however, is only really apparent – or better put not apparent – when the chairs are in use. With their transparent plastic frames the chairs genuinely merge in with the background allowing other objects in a room to take precedence.

It is truly an affect that needs to be seen to be appreciated, the photographs added here can only offer an idea of the beauty that is Ghost series.

More details on the chairs can be found in the Kartell information brochure

Posted in Designer, Product Tagged with: , , , ,

Stone by Marcel Wanders for Kartell
August 7th, 2009 by julius
Holland. It all looks like this you know

Holland. It all looks like this you know

It’s not all hard work you know.

Just read a nice little article on dutch design portal in which Marie-Luce Bree, deputy director of the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam, talks about their photo project “New Greetings From”; which basically follows the tried and tested method of getting members of the public to submit photos and then using the best to create an exhibition.

Stone by Marcel Wanders for Kartell

Stone by Marcel Wanders for Kartell

In detail, “New Greetings From” requests contributors to submit photos showing their interpretation of what Holland look like, and that the image is positive.

But hey isn’t everything in Holland!

And what does Holland look like? According to Marie-Luce Bree what often matters most to people is “nature, and even cows and tulips”


And on the “New Greetings From” website, we’ve even found a few windmills.

What we’ve yet to see, however, is much in the way of Dutch furniture design.

Panton Chair by Verner Panton for Vitra

Panton Chair by Verner Panton for Vitra

Which is a shame.

For while Denmark positively gloats over it’s furniture design heritage, Holland is much more reserved.
Go to Copenhagen, Aarhus or Aalborg and you can’t move without stumbling over the works of Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen or Hans Wegner.

Indeed, the last time we were in Copenhagen we saw so many Panton chairs everything we saw started to take on a flowing, wave form.

In Holland, however, the local appreciation of the designers is much less. And that despite the talent on offer, the presence of self-confident producers such as moooi or droog and the strong interest among Dutch people for well designed and crafted designer furniture.

Bovist by Hella Jongerius for Vitra

Bovist by Hella Jongerius for Vitra

At the end of the day original designer furniture is just as at home in Amsterdam as in Copenhagen.

So we’d like to say to the peoples of the Netherlands, take part in “New Greetings From”, but take pictures that do Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders or Mart Stam proud. Make your dutch designers as famous and as culturally important as the Danes there’s.

And yes it’s OK to photograph the furniture next to a windmill, if you really must.

Posted in Design Tourism, smow Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.
August 4th, 2009 by julius
Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.

Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.

Since Saturday the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York has been showing their new exhibition Ron Arad: No Discipline.

Until October 19th visitors have the opportunity to view a varied selection of Arad’s work.

Or in the organisers words:

“…celebrate the designer’s interdisciplinary and “no-disciplinary” spirit. Physical concepts are traced through works in different materials and scales, and objects are grouped in families based on a shared form, material, technique, or structural idea. The exhibition culminates in Cage sans Frontières, Arad’s giant structure that cradles all the other works.”

Bookworm by Ron Arad for Kartell

Bookworm by Ron Arad for Kartell

No Discipline includes, in addition to Ron Arad’s designer furniture and sketches, impressions of his architectural and sculptural works.
And perhaps most impressively the whole exhibition is housed in one, huge Arad creation Cage Sans Frontièrs.

Full details of the exhibits can be found in the checklist pdf.

For all who are or will be in New York this autumn the show looks like being worth the trip. We’ll be back in New York in September and will certainly report back on how we found it.

Tom Vac by Ron Arad for Vitra (Here at CeBIT)

Tom Vac by Ron Arad for Vitra (Here at CeBIT)

For those of you not in and around NYC, at you can get a taste of what the “Ron Arad: No Discipline” curators call Arad’s “daredevil approach to form, structure, technology, and materials” in work such as Bad Tempered Chair, Tom Vac or his truly iconic Bookworm. All of which are featured in the exhibition.

Ron Arad: No Discipline runs at MoMa New York from 2nd August through October 19th 2009 . The accompanying monograph is published by The Museum of Modern Art and is at for $45.00

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vitra Cushions
July 29th, 2009 by julius

It’s Dumfries Show on Saturday.

That won’t mean much to the most people, but for us it is a sure sign.

Winter is coming.
We know, we know. Barely have we got use to remembering to take our sunglasses to work, buying ice-creams for lunch or waking up at 5 am because we forgot to shut the curtains – again – than the Dumfries Agricultural Society hold their annual show.
And after the Dumfries show the evenings get shorter with increasing rapidity and before you know it the ground will be brown with dying leaves.

Oh Joy!

And so the time is surely rife to start thinking about lighting for the dark months ahead. Below are a few of our suggestions, in addition to our previous favourites from the spring design shows.


FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell

FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell

In the first half of 2009 Italian producer Kartell invested a lot of marketing effort into promoting their lighting range, or The Kartellights Collection to give it its correct name. Which is no bad thing. For most Kartell is all about Philippe Starck‘s chairs, Ron Arad’s Bookworm or Philippe Starck’s chairs, and too little attention is given to their lighting collection. One of the true highlights in the collection is FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani. Made in transparent methacrylate, the cover of FL/Y is not perfectly hemispherical but, rather, the cut-off is underneath the height of the diameter allowing it to collect the most light.  In addition, the special transparency of the material combined with the sheen of the colours bring to mind a soap bubble, iridescent with reflections of light. FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell is available in 9 transparent colours and opaque black and white.


Talak Lettura by Neil Poulton for Artemide

Talak Lettura by Neil Poulton for Artemide

It takes a brave producer to take what is in essence a table lamp design and scale it up to a floor version. But that is pretty much what the idea behind Talak Lettura by Neil Poulton for Artemide. At 139 cm high, the intention with Lettura is not a lamp to illuminate a whole room, but much more – and as the name implies – it is a floor standing reading lamp. [Lettura is Italian for reading for all who have not been to Milan] The lighting element itself is embedded in the vertical arm, and is available as either an LED or a fluorescent unit. The vertical arm can be rotated round 360 degrees meaning that you can position it over a desk for working/reading and then – assuming your room is correctly laid out – swing it round to allow you to continue to read in your favourite armchair. With its intense, warm light Talak Lettura not only adds an attractive ambience to a room on account of it’s stylish minimal design, but also through it’s illumination.

Bauhaus Lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Much adored, much copied, only buy originals

WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld from Tecnolumen

WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld from Tecnolumen

Having bought Eileen Gray’s Roquebrune chair to place next to your Eiermann Table you will of course be looking for the perfect lamp to complete your informal study corner at home. The WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld was created by the young designer shortly after his admission to the Bauhaus workshop in Weimar. The result of an assignment given to him by Hungarian designer and Bauhaus Professor László Moholy-Nag, the lamp can in many ways be considred as ther starting point of Wagenfeld’s design career. As with almost all famous designs from the Bauhaus period, the Wagenfeld lamp’s are amongst the most copied of all industrialal designs, and purchasers should be wary of buying cheap replicas where quality craftsmanship has been sacrifice din favour of profit. All Wagenfeld lamps sold by (smow) are, as with all products (smow) sell, officially licensed originals – in the case of the WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld that means from Tecnolumen, Bremen.


Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark for moooi

Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark for moooi

If we start a post with a sentence like “And now a lamp for those looking for a little different”, it can only mean one thing … moooi. On this occasion we’re going to forgo the insane beauty of Horse Lamp by Front and instead recommend Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark. If we’re honest when we first saw pictures of the Clusterlamp we thought it was a joke. A big, fat unfunny Dutch joke.

And then felt a little guilty after seeing it “in real life” as we realised that although it unquestionably posses the inventive genius of a Laurel and Hardy or Helge Schneider, it isn’t funny.

The PR text from moooi talks of it evoking experimentation with ambient expression, and while that may be true, for us the true charm of Clusterlamp is the fact that you only notice it when it’s switched off. We’re not going to pretend it looks particularly attractive, or that it is a lamp for every situation, but with it’s pleasant, inoffensive illumination and radical design Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark is definitely a lamp for …. you know the rest. Clusterlmap is available with a choice of three bulb sets (each set conatining five bulbs). The bulb sets can also be purchased separately for those looking to mix and match.

Vitra Cushions

Cushions from Vitra

Cushions from Vitra.

No they don’t light up, but what’s the point in creating a pleasantly lit environment if you can’t get comfortable with a good cushion or six. Vitra offer two ranges of cushions each covered with fabrics from US producer Maharam. The Maharam collection “Textiles of the 20th Century” is a range of re-issues of some of the most important designs in the Maharam archives. These include such classics as Geometri by Verner Panton, Small Dot Pattern by Charles and Ray Eames or Millerstripe by Alexander Girard. “Repeat” is a series of re-workings of classic designs from the archives of a Swiss mill by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. For the Vitra cushion range three of the designs – stripe, hounds-tooth and dot ring – are available in range of colours. Both ranges offer not only exquisite design to finish off and compliment any interior, but also something soft and friendly to hold when you want to relax of a damp autumn evening after a hard days work. Depending on the design chosen the type of fabric does vary and so please check with (smow) before ordering.

Posted in Designer, Product Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vitra, smow and USM Haller - contrast and harmony
June 12th, 2009 by julius
A selection from the Vitra catalogue in the smow system USM Haller sideboard

A selection from the Vitra catalogue in the smow system USM Haller sideboard(Photo Christin Bargel)

It must be a summer thing. Not only are our newspapers and magazines full of authors recommending their chums books, but first design observer portrayed their reading tips and then design sojourn brought out their “30 Essential Books for Industrial Designers”

Obviously the design world is planning downing tools and spending the long hot summer that awaits us reading.

Which is fine by us.

For, in addition to supplying designer furniture, we at smow also stock a wide range of books on and about design and designers.

In addition to the complete Vitra collection – ranging from coffee table, photo collections such as “the furniture of charles and ray eames” to the more informative and beautifully designed Project Vitra – and Kartell publications such as “kARTell 150 items, 150 artworks” – an outrageous  photographic journey through the Kartell catalogue in the company of some of the most celebrated fashion photographers – smow can supply all books published by and about our partners and their designers be it Moooi, Moormann or Artemide.

Just ask we are always happy to advise.

Vitra, smow and USM Haller - contrast and harmony

Vitra, moooi and USM Haller - contrast and harmony(Photo Christin Bargel)

And, it goes without saying, we can also supply the bookcases in which to store or display your new purchase.

The USM Haller unit shown in the photos is a (smow)original which we are more than happy to re-create for you. Or you can order one in the more conventional monotone.

Other bookcases available from smow, include:

Buchstabler from Moormann

Bookworm from Kartell

Lovely Rita from Kartell

FNP from Moormann

Posted in smow offline Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland
June 10th, 2009 by julius
Platform 21 Repair Manifesto

Platform 21 Repair Manifesto

About a 100 years ago we mentioned Platform 21and their Repair Manifesto.

Inspired by yesterdays rant against designers who find using PET bottles a suitable demonstration of how design can help save the planet, we revisited our previous post on Platform 21 and subsequently their Repair Manifesto

And still love what they are doing. Especially the Repair Hub where you can exchange addresses of skilled craftsmen and women.
If you should be in or near Amsterdam you can drop by and repair whatever you want.

And if not, check out Platform 21 and let yourself be inspired.

It may seem odd that a company who exist through the sale of furniture should encourage people to repair their furniture, but so contradictory is it not.

For why would you invest in piece of furniture, only to throw it out because it is partly damaged or broken?

That would be daft.

And also against the wishes of the designer and the purpose of the design.

A chair such as the new AC 4 by Antonio Citterio from Vitra, for example, is not only made of 51% recycled material but is itself 94% recyclable. As is the case with much of the Vitra seating programme.

Where's the problem? A Vitra Office Chair

Where's the problem? A Vitra Office Chair

Additionally chairs such as the plastic, wire and aluminium series by Charles and Ray Eames are designed and built to be repaired and rebuilt; spare and replacement parts can always be bought and in simple cases exchanged yourself or for detailed work by qualified and insured Vitra contractors. smow are always happy to advise.

Similarly all parts of the USM Haller system can be replaced, exchanged and rebuilt as and if required.

Wooden furniture, for example Thonet chairs or Moormann – well everything really -, can either be invisibly repaired by specialists or creatively by yourself.

Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland

Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland

Even plastic furniture as typified by Kartell is not beyond repair and fixing when things go wrong.

And things can go wrong – a misplaced bottle of red wine, an overenthusiastic child, a police raid at 3 in the morning. We’ve all experienced such moments.

But don’t blame it on your chair, table or sideboard.

It was worth the initial investment … it’s worth repairing.

And you’ll do much more for the environment that those designers with their PET bottle lamps

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droog doing it right - turn up, set up, go home....
May 19th, 2009 by julius

Not good

As everyone know everything in America is bigger. Everything.
From bagels the size of Jupiter to the level of manipulation undertaken to justify invading Iraq.

Everything in America exists on a larger scale than you thought possible.

Except furniture trade shows.

The Vitra stand in new York - smaller than the Vitra VIP area in Milan (honest!!)

The Vitra stand in new York - smaller than the Vitra VIP area in Milan

In Milan, Artemide‘s stand, for example, was so big it was not only dissected by a time zone, but in the north east corner biologists found two previously unknown primate species. Meanwhile Kartell, following the problems in 2008, constructed an underground rail system to help visitors get around the stand more easily. This in turn led to the establishment of a local snack and newspaper vending industry which ultimatley forced Kartell to introduce their own currency – designed naturally by Phillipe Starck.

In New York, everything is tiny by comparison.

While in many areas, small equals intimacy which equals better.
Here it just serves to underline what a minor role contemporary, designer furniture plays in the USA.

ICFF is so quiet rabbits feel at ease on the stands (almost)

ICFF is so quiet rabbits feel at ease on the stands (almost)

And for all European contemporary designer furniture.
In the ICFF book shop you can buy books on Italian design, French design, German design, British Design; there’s even lovely little book on the Vespa.

Out there in “Reality USA”, howver the majority of the consumers are obviously still obsessed with the formless and bland solid wood furniture you see adorning the loving, caring family home in every TV commercial.
We believe the word is “traditional”. Possibly “Traditional American”.

Which is a synonym for safe, unimaginative, uninteresting.
And as with most utterances of the word “traditional” by Americans, describes a narrow, defined, blinkered tradition.

droog doing it right - turn up, set up, go home....

droog: Stylishly disrespectful as ever - turn up, set up, go home....

Yeah, there is market for good, well mde designer furniture in the US, obviously, but it isn’t so big that one need take it seriously.

And as such a show like the ICFF suffer, because no one takes them seriously.


Posted in New York Tales Tagged with: , , ,

iglooplay at ICFF - and the closest we got to a table all week....
May 17th, 2009 by julius

There may be no tables in the press room, but there are plenty to be found at ICFF…

Eiermann 1 by Egon Eiermann from Lampert….ahhhhh, if only, if only if only. Polished chrome AND a place to rest your feet at hip level. Hhhhmmmmmm, perfection at work

The Eiermann 1 table frame from Richard Lampert at the German Design Council stand

The Eiermann 1 table frame from Richard Lampert at the German Design Council stand

Oh my God,  a table with its own integrated book holder. Every proofreaders dream. And height adjustable so you can stand or sit to work … Crescendo C2 maximus from stilvoll where have you been since Saturday at 10…

Crescendo C by stillvoll. So simple, yet so complex and so good

Crescendo C2 maximus by stillvoll. So simple, yet so complex and so good

Particularly nasty – access to this Dr Na by Philippe Starckfor Kartell has been blocked for the press corp!!! First they ignored the Geneva convention, now the freedom of the press. Is nothing sacred in Obama’s America?

Dr Na by Philippe Starck for Kartell

Dr Na by Philippe Starck for Kartell

Driven to the edge the (smow)blog team attempt to use a child’s desk from iglooplay.  Gorgeous Eamesesque styling, but far too small for the average north European adult.


The somewhat improbably named Mod Topper and Mod Rocker from iglooplay. Great for kids, rubbish for adults

Posted in New York Tales Tagged with: , , , ,

Horse Lamp and Pig Table by Front in the new moooi space in New York
May 16th, 2009 by julius

In local parlance Greene Street, NYC is known as “West smow”, on account of the prevalence of high-quality designer furniture producers who have their flagship stores there. The Artemide store, for example, is a couple of doors down from USM Haller, across the road from USM Haller is Kartell – it really is uncannily like the navigation bar at

Those wood boxes and the screwless construction... Is this Moormann's future New York flagship store

Those wood boxes and the screwless construction... Is this Moormann's new NYC store?

Indeed as we strolled down West smow on Friday morning we couldn’t help thinking that only Moormann failed. Then we spotted number 75.  Appropriately enough, directly across the road from Droog, and without doubt a building on the brink of rentability.

We were, however, in Greene Street for the US press launch of Patricia Urquiola‘s new products for Molteni … and although we really don’t like saying such things we have to say “typical Molteni”. Not bad, indeed in places excellent, for all in terms of the fine detail just – well, big. Very big. And as such not our thing.

But more on Seniora Urquiola’s work later.

Marcel Wanders personally brought the moooi collection to New York

Marcel Wanders personally brought the moooi collection to New York

Following the show at Molteni we were then, somewhat unwittingly, present as Dutch producer moooi arrived in New York City – securely packed in the back of a New Jersey truck.

How romantic.

We then spent the rest of the day in the nearby Ben Sherman shop – green !!! – before returning later in the evening for the official opening of the new moooi presence at B&B Italia.

The store is located next to the NYC flagship store of British fashion designer Paul Smith; who for New York design week have created the most the wonderful window display of Joe Colombo lamps. The stylistic links between Colombo and Smith may be pretty obvious, but the display itself is, despite its simplicity, fantastic.

Horse Lamp and Pig Table by Front in the new moooi space in New York

Horse Lamp and Pig Table by Front in the new moooi space in New York

Dragging ourselves to the  moooi launch the first thing we noticed is that, somewhat curiously, they are starting in NYC principally with “older” products.  OK the Brave New World lamps from Freshwest were there, but if we’re honest, and with the best of intentions, we’re still just not lovin’ them.
What we are still lovin’, however, is the Horse Lamp and Pig Table by front for moooi – still genius, still good and still wanting them so badly.

Obviously we wish moooi, and Moormann ;), all the best with their new ventures and look forward next year and to seeing how they have grown.

Leaving the moooi bash before the prosecco and the wild mushroom crossini’s started tasting toooo good we headed of to the cinema and “Objectified”…

Posted in New York Tales Tagged with: , , , , , ,

First Chair by Stefano Giovannoni for Magis is a quality product.... The press room at ICFF. Apparentl American journalists, as a highly eveolved species, submit their texts by ESP alone
May 15th, 2009 by julius

Not good.

For some reason which escapes us there are no tables in the press room.


And to think we complained in Milan once when the beer in the press room fridge was too warm!!!

Is there not a producer out there who could sponsor a few for next year.

Vitra?  Kartell? Lampert?

The conditions here are worse than at the Magdeburger Volksstimme or any other village rag.

Oh, how we yearn for our asymmetric Eiermann II table…..

As the logical next step in the War on Terror, Tables have been now been banned across Americ

As the logical next step in the War on Terror, tables have been now been banned across America….The (smow)blog office in New York.

First Chair by Stefano Giovannoni for Magis is a quality product.... The press room at ICFF. Apparentl American journalists, as a highly eveolved species, submit their texts by ESP alone

First Chair by Stefano Giovannoni for Magis is a quality product…. The press room at ICFF. Apparently American journalists, as a highly eveolved species, submit their texts by ESP alone, saving the troublesome job of typing

Posted in New York Tales Tagged with: , , ,

May 12th, 2009 by julius

One of the principle advantages of trade fairs such as Salone or ICFF is the unrivalled access to producers, products and for all designers.

Whereas furniture producers like to strut around, boldly announcing news of their latest coups; designers are generally typified by a preference for quiet isolated studios, and a reluctance to leave their natural habitat.

At trade fairs, however, the designers appear, blinking and staring into the spotlight. And are generally remarkably friendly and docile.

One of the more interesting discussions we experienced in Milan was with french designer Philippe Starck. One of the more prolific characters in the design world, Starck has created products for companies as diverse as Puma and Microsoft, designed the interior of Eurostar trains and even created a wind turbine. However despite his wide canvas, Starck is probably most closely associated with Italian designer furniture producer Kartell: Products such as Dr No, Prince Aha and Mr. Impossible already being established design classics.  At Salone in Milan Starck spoke at great length about his work and his relationship with Kartell; below is small snippet where Starck discusses plastic and democratic design. (A quick editorial note – the video was shot by one of the newcomers to the (smow)blog team, who, in their youthful excitement, forgot to note who was asking the questions. Apologies to the colleague concerned, and if we identify you we will of course credit you)

The full video with Philippe Starck, and indeed all videos, can be viewed in the official (smow)blog youtube channel.

Posted in Designer, smow in Milan Tagged with: , , , ,

smow at ICFF
May 8th, 2009 by julius
smow at ICFF

smow at ICFF

Sometimes we get the feeling no one really wants us here in Leipzig.

Not that we are complaining – or at least not when avoiding our company means sending us to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and New York City.

From May 14th until May 19th your (smow)blog team will bring you all the important stories, new products and general lunacy from Vitra, Kartell, Magis, Tom Dixon and all the other exhibitors at North America’s premier designer furniture trade fair. And not just from the official exhibition. As you would expect the (smow)blog team will also be out and about “off-ICFF”.  Aside from casting our critical eye over the new(ish) Droog store in SoHo or the new Moooi presence at B&B Italia’s Manhattan store, we will also be on the look out for the newest, freshest and most innovative design and product development the US has to offer.

And as if that wasn’t enough we guarantee at least one post on the subject of post-colonialism in contemporary US design.

We can’t wait

The only slight downer on the whole expedition is that we will now miss the ever excellent (pop up new music festival and forum here in Leipzig. Especially annoying is that we will miss the Art Brut concert on 16.05 – although in it’s place we do admittedly have Tablefights in Chelsea.

Keep up to date with all the best from the city that never washes either here in the (smow)blog, on twitter or on youtube.

And feedback is positively encouraged.

Posted in New York Tales, smow Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Eams Elephant by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra
April 8th, 2009 by julius

Two days sun and we at the (smow)blog are already trying to convince the (smow)boss to let us work from the garden for the next six months. Fortunately smow can provide all that we need to both work safety and in comfort out of doors as well as to enjoy our evening.

Designer furniture for outdoors: S 1043 outdoor by Thonet

S 1043 by Thonet

S 1043 by Thonet

With its round stainless steel tubular frame, weather-proof plywood top and height-adjustable feet the S1043 is an excellent choice for all outdoor areas; regardless of whether you are looking for a dining table or an outdoor desk. The rounded edges of the S 1043 match formally with the down-turned edges of Mart Stam’s classic S 43 cantilever chair – the teak veneer version of which is also weather-proof.

Designer furniture for outdoors: Bubble Club by Philippe Starck

Bubble Club sofa by Phillipe Starck for Kartell

Bubble Club sofa by Phillipe Starck for Kartell

For far too long sitting out of doors has meant one chair per person; not the most social of solutions and one that all to often dampens the atmosphere on a warm evening with a chilled bottle of wine. The Bubble club sofa by Philippe Starck for Kartell is the solution. An armchair is also available for those who require their own space, and an accompanying side table. Made entirely of plastic, and exceptionally weather resistant, all members of the Bubble Club family can be used out of doors.

Designer furniture for outdoors: Lizz by Piero Lissoni & Carlo Tamborini

Lizz by  for Kartell

Lizz by Piero Lissoni & Carlo Tamborini for Kartell

For all outdoor occasions it is important to have a handy supply of chairs at the ready; just in the case the neighbours, sisters ex-husband turns up unexpectedly. Lizz by Piero Lissoni & Carlo Tamborini for Kartell are weather resistant, have a classic minimalistic design and are stackable. Available in 7 colours Lizz is perfect for all who like to entertain out of doors, but are never quite sure how many guests will appear.

Designer furniture for outdoors: La Bohème by Philippe Starck

La Boheme by Phillipe Starck for Kartell

La Boheme by Phillipe Starck for Kartell

Outdoor living or working doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on stylish accessories. The La Bohème range by Philippe Starck  for Kartell, for example, are wonderfully stylish accessories that can be used as a side table or stool; or simply placed on the edge of a space to define the space.

Designer furniture for outdoors: Eames Elephant by Charles und Ray Eames

Eams Elephant by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra

Eeams Elephant by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra

Every now and again children get bored – so we’ve heard in any case. The Eames elephant from Vitra is the perfect antidote. Theoretically a wonderfully creative children’s stool, Ray and Charles Eames’ elephant is also a plaything and diversion for creative minds. Made from durable dyed polypropylene the elephants are hard-wearing and so while your child explores the garden with Mr Elephant you can enjoy a few minutes adult conversation.

Posted in Designer, Producer Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,